Sticks and Stones Can Break Your Bones, and Words Can Destroy Your Soul

By: Geoffrey Holsclaw

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” 
~This is a LIE.

I never say this to my boys at home. And I never say this to members in our church. The truth is, words do hurt. They wound and break us just as much as they heal and build us.  Words matter, and we should never let our children think that they don’t.

A broken bone will heal in a couple weeks, but a broken spirit can last a lifetime. Don’t we all know people who are wounded and scarred by words (ugly, failure, worthless, unwanted), living out of these lies as if they were the truth?

Sticks and stones can break your bones, and words can destroy your soul.
Sticks and stones can break your bones, and words can bind the broken.
Sticks and stones can break your bones, so cling to words that bring life.

Truth is, we are in a battle of words.

The Fall

Did Satan bring sticks to kill Adam and Eve?  Did he use stones to make them eat the fruit?

No. He came with words. He came with words of doubt: “Did God really say…?”  He came with words of deception: “You will surely not die…”  He came with words to persuade and insinuate, to sow seeds of doubt that grew up into the fruit of disobedience, disaster, and death.


Did Satan overpower Jesus in the wilderness? Did Satan imprison Jesus to keep him from his ministry?

No. He came with words to created distance between Father and Son: “If you are the Son of God…” then make bread, have a kingdom, call for help.

Satan was trying to break a relationship by misusing words, trying to read between the lines and create doubt in Jesus, just as he had done to Adam and Eve.

But Jesus responds by relying on God’s words, responding to false words with a true word: “It is written…”


And this is always what God is doing for us. God does not come with sticks and stones to beat the devil (or us) down. Rather God sends words of promise and life, of healing and hope. God speaks powerful words through His Spirit.

Indeed, God sends his very Word into the world through the power of His Spirit in order to make all things right!


Our Words

In this battle of words, between words of death and words of life, which words are we clinging to?  Are you turning to the words of life in Scripture, to the Word of life in Jesus? Or are your spirit and soul being battered by lesser words (this is usually the root of shame)?

And as ministers of the Word, are you speaking and preaching the words of life against words of death? Are your words each Sunday bringing hope and healing?

Or are you preaching practical advice or a legalistic code? Are you preaching failure and fear (with a little forgiveness sprinkled in)?

Our words as ministers in the church can either break down or build up, and believe it or not, our words are incredibly powerful in the minds of those we shepherd.

So, choose your words wisely.


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March 19, 2015

Geoffrey Holsclaw

Affiliate Professor of Theology, and Director of the Master of Arts in Theology and Mission Program

ABOUT Geoffrey

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